Charging Up the Earth Friendly Way
Batteries are an essential part of our modern life, but many of them contain dangerous heavy metals and other toxic substances that, when thrown into the trash, can do serious damage to the environment. We are surrounded by battery-powered products - toys, cell phones, laptops, remote controls, and more - what do we do when those batteries die? How can we prevent them from reaching landfills?
The first step is to replace as many of your batteries as possible with rechargeable ones. They are more expensive than the standard alkaline type, but will pay for themselves very quickly. When they reach the end of their usable life, they can be recycled - and so can many single use batteries, a fact that surprises most people. Still, the more rechargeable batteries you use instead of single-use, the better for the earth. A set of rechargeable batteries can last for up to a hundred uses, versus the one time use of a regular battery - think of all the batteries we could stop producing, never mind using!
Some of the other batteries you will encounter include lithium-ion, nickel-cadmium, nickel metal hydride and even the lead batteries that can be found in some automobiles. Most types of batteries can be recycled. Automotive shops that sell batteries will take your old battery for recycling when you purchase a new one. The same may apply to your cell phone company - many will handle the recycling of your cell phone battery at the end of it's life. Check with the company that manufactures just about any battery powered device to see if they will take their batteries back for recycling. There are also recycling centers that handle batteries and specialty battery shops that will do the same.
While it may seem like a hassle to locate a place to recycle your batteries rather than simply trashing them, the dangers of throwing them away make it worth the time. Heavy metals and other toxins from landfills can leach into the soil and reach the water system. Incinerating batteries carries this risk, as well as the risk of air pollution.
The challenge of recycling batteries remains a large one for environmentalists. While recycling facilities exist for some types of batteries, a large number of batteries turned in for recycling will simply wind up in toxic waste landfills or incinerated. Many places still do not require that dry cell batteries such as standard household alkaline batteries and some other types be handled as hazardous waste. Recent changes to California laws have mandated that no type of battery may be place in the trash for transportation to landfills. If this type of law proliferates, we may soon see an increase in recycling facilities for batteries and better handling of those turned in. Still, at this point in time, every effort to recycle your batteries and keep them out of landfills is a step in the right direction.
The more battery operated devices you own, the more batteries you will need to dispose of regularly. When possible, replace battery powered products with those that are powered another way - and when not possible use rechargeable batteries as much as you can!